Imago Relationship Therapy: What’s Wrong with Being Single?

What distinguishes Imago Relationship Therapy from other types of therapy is that it provides an immediate, positive impact on relationships and tools to manage conflict in a way that feels safe and supportive. Imago consists of several important principles: we are born in relationship, wounded in relationship, and heal in relationship. In addition, we find ourselves attracted to someone who fits an unconscious profile of our primary caregivers and our lost parts.

Imago also stresses the idea that conflict with our partner is good because it presents us with an opportunity to grow, heal, and develop compassion. How a couple manages conflict is the key to everlasting love. The Imago intentional dialogue, a therapeutic tool, shifts the conversation away from blame, shame and criticism, into mutual support and understanding. A couple learns that all people make sense all of the time if we listen long enough.

Imago tenants are also helpful for those of us who are single. Imago invites singles to do some self-growth work, while possibly feeling broken-hearted, wanting a new relationship, or wanting to restore love in your relationship. We can all relate to feeling despair, disillusionment, and disappointment in love. Whatever your heartbreak, whatever your history, you can learn about what you need to know and what you can do to greatly improve your chances for finding and keeping love!

Imago gives us all something to think about, as it offers an enlightening perspective on being single. Singlehood needs to be accepted, understood, and encouraged. Singlehood is our time to explore life and people, to learn who we are, take responsibility for ourselves, and to identify our desires and needs. Singlehood can be beneficial whatever your age is. It is a time for healing, re-establishing priorities, becoming happy with yourself, developing friends and interests, possibly going to therapy, and learning how to live and care for yourself. In addition, singlehood is a stage in your growth. When you successfully work through this stage, you are then ready to be in a long-term, committed relationship. It is then that you will know yourself, be able to be intimate, and can take on the responsibilities of a partnership.

Culturally and historically, having long years of singlehood is a relatively new social standard. There has been and currently is pressure to get married, and many people go from childhood straight into marriage. It makes sense that it is hard to know how to understand the benefits of singlehood well. Some of us struggle with the reality that we married too young, before getting to know ourselves as a single person. Thus, we have no clear sense of direction and what we want in life. This perspective helps us understand why we have either not found partnership or experienced failed attempts in relationships. We need to authenticate singlehood as a part of our culture and educate singles of the purpose and benefits of this time of life.

So, why do most single people want to marry when the divorce rate is so high? Also, lots of people can be satisfied with the single life, and even lead an ideal single life. Singleness can be a choice, for example, if you do not want to give up certain things and are worried that you would have to by being in a relationship. On the other hand, you can be single by default due to experiencing hurt in the past or repeatedly running into the same problems. You may conclude that your childhood scars continually affect your current relationships, so you are better off alone. Research supports that there is a human need for relationship. Singles, as compared to those in relationships, demonstrate more of an overall health decline, a higher likelihood of depression, a weaker immune system, and a shorter life expectancy. They also have more difficulties in the work place and struggles during crisis. A key Imago principle states that human beings have an unconscious yearning for partnership. Relationship is essential for our fulfillment, to feel whole, and we all have an innate powerful desire for committed relationship.

People ,who marry because they are desperate to marry, or feel urged to fill up sense of emptiness without experiencing the singlehood journey, may just be postponing their single years till after they are divorced. They may stay in a dead relationship or work very hard, too hard, in order to maintain their relationships. However, we have these desperations and urge to be in committed relationships because of our human needs for wholeness and connection. Singles work on perfecting strategies for finding the perfect partner, but do not work on their inner self. Singles want to find the perfect partner then work on their happiness, and it should really be the other way around. Around 50% of marriages, which end in divorces, end because the couple married before examining their childhood baggage and learning how relationships work. You first need to work on yourself and make the necessary changes, then do the same work on your relationship. When you become healthier and more mature, you meet a healthier and mature lover.

As stated above, singlehood is meant to be a stage, and not meant to be forever. Singleness denies meeting all of our needs, as certain issues heal in relationships, and certain issues are worked through in singlehood. What we long for are relationships, which can fulfill our needs. We need to have a safe intimate enlivening partnership in order to feel whole and fully human, and to heal wounds of the past. We need long-term committed relationships to heal and grow.

Singlehood may be difficult; many of us know this personally, especially those that have experienced rejections. It is understandable that it is easier to stay home, and not risk putting yourself out there. However, in order to find true love, you need to throw away your worries. Once you have successfully gone through the single stage, experienced self-growth, and thus are ready to be in relationship, pick someone who is self-aware (like you) and willing to do work necessary for lasting love! By doing this work, it will be easier to find a partner who is able to commit to loving you for the long-term.

In conclusion, four things you need to do in preparation, as part of the process of becoming a conscious single:

  1. Educate yourself about relationships!
  2. Educate yourself about yourself!
  3. Train yourself in relationship skills!
  4. Change your behaviors and defenses that keep you from keeping the love you find!

(This article is based on the book, Keeping the Love You Findby Harvelle Hendrix)

By Grace McDonald, M.A., RMFT, RCC

grace Photo**Grace McDonald models Imago’s intentional dialogue (video of Grace McDonald doing “Saying Goodbye to Past Partner” can be seen on sometimes we are not really available for a new relationship because our energy is still attached to a past or current relationship that is over. We are holding on to the love, hurt or anger. Dialogue can be used as a process whenever you are feeling pain around an old relationship, either missing the good times or caught up in your anger at your past partner. You can use the intentional dialogue at home, aloud with a friend, your past partner, or by journaling**


6 thoughts on “Imago Relationship Therapy: What’s Wrong with Being Single?

  1. I’m single! yay! Great article on how good a single life can be, Grace. Whenever whoever asks me why I’m still single, I will flash this article out in front of their faces and say THAT’S WHY! :))

  2. A very enlightening article, Grace. Just wondering, exactly how long do we have to “examine our childhood baggage?” Is there a cut-off date?

  3. Interesting article. Being single is fine as long as you focus on the positives of being single. If you’re single and want to be in a relationship, ask yourself if you’re running from something or running to something.

  4. Interesting article. I’ve been single several times since my 20 year marriage disintegrated. Each time I experienced that desperate need for a relationship and rushed into things. This time I’ve found my happy plcae. I’m enjoying my singleness, while still being social and meeting new friends without that overwhelming urge to be “with” someone.

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